No New Trial for Troy Davis in Georgia

The Georgia Supreme Court today in a 4-3 opinion denied death row inmate Troy Davis an evidentiary hearing allow him to present evidence of his innocence. You can read the opinion here (pdf.) Some background here:

Troy Davis was sentenced to death for the murder of Police Officer Mark Allen McPhail at a Burger King in Savannah, Georgia; a murder he maintains he did not commit. There was no physical evidence against him and the weapon used in the crime was never found. The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even at the time of the trial. Since then, all but two of the state's non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony. Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis.

One of the two witnesses who has not recanted his testimony is Sylvester "Red" Coles – the principle alternative suspect, according to the defense, against whom there is new evidence implicating him as the gunman. Nine individuals have signed affidavits implicating Sylvester Coles.

Amnesty International responds to today's decision:

Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) decried today’s Georgia Supreme Court decision to deny a new trial for Troy Anthony Davis, who has been on death row for more than 16 years despite significant concerns regarding his innocence. The human rights organization, which has collected more than 60,000 petition signatures while campaigning for Davis, said the ruling demonstrates a blatant disregard for justice, and asserted that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles must grant clemency in his case.

“The claim that evidence in Davis’ favor was not sufficient to reopen his case is simply stunning,” said Larry Cox, executive director of AIUSA. “In turning a blind eye to the realities of the case, the legal system has shrugged off the very notion of justice at every level, from Savannah to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Board of Pardons must recognize that a blind adherence to technicalities cannot trump a concerted search for the truth, especially when a human being’s life is at stake.

What's next?

Amnesty International maintains that the case has been tainted from the start, with a questionable police investigation, a lack of funding to ensure adequate defense, and an increasingly restrictive appeals process, which has thwarted attempts to present new evidence in the case. In the wake of the state Supreme Court decision, the human rights organization is once again calling for the Georgia Board of Pardon and Paroles to commute the death sentence for Davis due to the troubling facts of the conviction.

...“With this decision, the Supreme Court is ignoring the fundamental flaws that underlie the death penalty in Georgia and in Troy Davis’s case,” said Jared Feuer, Southern Regional Director of AIUSA. “As a result, we will continue to advocate for a re-examination of his sentence and of Georgia’s use of capital punishment. Officer MacPhail’s life was cut tragically short, and his family and the people of Georgia deserve justice. This will not be accomplished by executing a man with a strong case of innocence.”

More on Davis legal challenges to his execution is here.

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  • Display: Sort:
    more killing is not the answer (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 10:00:26 AM EST
    end state sponsored execution.  nationally  and permanently.  

    Man, that seems like a blatantly bad (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by tigercourse on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 10:13:37 AM EST

    And chock-full.... (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by kdog on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 10:15:48 AM EST
    of reasonable doubt.

    perfect reason to ban the death penalty (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by DandyTIger on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 10:26:53 AM EST
    because you just can't trust some locales. Either that or require some reasonable minimum level of evidence. That is, not just eye witnesses. Hopefully we'll get some level of sanity from the SCOTUS. Oh wait, what am I thinking...

    Agreed... (none / 0) (#11)
    by DudeE on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 02:46:48 PM EST
    ...all too willing to mete out the 'ultimate' punishment but too self-righteous to act objectively and responsibly...

    I really don't think... (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by Jerrymcl89 on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 10:30:44 AM EST
    ... that anyone should ever be subjected to the death penalty entirely on the basis of witness testimony.

    Absolutely!! (none / 0) (#8)
    by lilybart on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 12:19:17 PM EST
    No physical evidence, no weapon and the only witness is a suspect?

    This would not fly on Law and Order.

    I am so embarrassed for my country.


    The Innocence Project (none / 0) (#9)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 12:36:05 PM EST
    seems to me, has more than amply demonstrated that eyewitness testimony is totally unreliable.

    I don't understand the thinking of judges like this.  What is it, they figure the guy must be guilty of something bad, even if it's not this crime, so why go disrupting everything?

    I don't understand how these people sleep at night.


    eyewitnesses (none / 0) (#17)
    by Nasarius on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 05:35:37 PM EST
    There's been ample scientific studies demonstrating that we're lousy observers even in mundane, unstressful situations. It's very difficult to accept that someone could be convicted of murder, nevermind sentenced to death, with no physical evidence.

    I hope I live (5.00 / 5) (#6)
    by Capt Howdy on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 10:35:44 AM EST
    to see my country join the rest of the western world in two important ways.
    universal health care and no capital punishment.

    I am always appalled to see (none / 0) (#7)
    by hairspray on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 11:53:59 AM EST
    a person convicted and sentenced to death on the basis of eye witness accounts.  We know they are not reliable.  What is wrong with the Supreme Court justices?  In California a few years ago a guy named Scott Peterson was sentenced to death because he is believed to have killed his pregnant wife.  The fetus was already named "Connor" and the media went crazy over this story. The case was tried on cirucmstancial evidence. Scott was an adulterer convicted, I think, on his infidelity.  In my gut I think he did it.  But, it was not beyond a shadow of a doubt, but that didn't matter, they called for the death penalty anyway.

    I'd have to agree that (none / 0) (#10)
    by Deconstructionist on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 01:14:15 PM EST
     the newly discovered evidence proffered by Davis in support of an actual innocence claim, on paper, seems far from compelling in most every respect.

      But, the issue here is NOT whether to vacate the conviction and sentence and grant Davis a new trial, it's whether the lower court erred in denying his (extraordinary) motion for a new trial without conducting an evidentiary hearing.

      I can't, though, say I agree the proffered evidence is so inherently incredible that it would not be better  to grant a hearing where Davis can present his evidence and argument and the prosecution can challenge that evidence, present evidence of its own and argue.

    He... (none / 0) (#12)
    by DudeE on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 02:48:22 PM EST
    ...doesn't even have to show he's innocent.  Just reasonable doubt of his guilt.

    out of curiousity, does (none / 0) (#13)
    by cpinva on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 03:59:30 PM EST
    anyone know if georgia elects its supreme court justices? if so, my gut tells me (with no actual empirical data to support it) that may well play some part in their decision making process.

    it's easier to get re-elected by showing your "tough on crime" than not.

    Yes (none / 0) (#16)
    by Deconstructionist on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 04:04:11 PM EST
    Georgia has an elected judiciary.

      I agree that plays a role, but i've yet ro see anyone offer any strong reason (not saying it does not exist because this appeal addressed only the denial of the extraordinary motion) why these recantations should be considered so strong as to provide grounds for overturning a jury verdict.



    you're (none / 0) (#14)
    by cpinva on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 03:59:58 PM EST

    No, obviously (none / 0) (#15)
    by Deconstructionist on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 04:01:25 PM EST
     you have no understanding of the law.

      He is not at trial. He is appealing denial of an extraordinary motion for  new trial filed following trial directe appeal in the State courts and Federal review.

      The standards he must now meet are set forth in the opinion. You might try reading it before offering left field assertions.

      Essentially, he needs to show, among other procedural requirements, that he can present evidence of such weight and credibility that it would likely result in a different outcome than the one at trial-- when he did only have to convince the jury of reasonable doubt.

      I think he should be allowed to have a hearing in his effort to make the required showing.
    That does not alter my opinion after reading the opinion that based on his proffer his evidence sounds pretty weak and not very credible. I just don't think he or anyone else shoudl be deprived of any opportunity to present evidence for full consideration.

    perjury (none / 0) (#18)
    by diogenes on Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 09:15:30 PM EST
    I'm not a lawyer-is there a statute of limitations for perjury which has expired (in which case the recantering witnesses could now be lying risk-free)?  If not, shouldn't there be perjury charges here.  After all, telling lies that lead to a murder conviction needs to be addressed, as does telling lies after the conviction, and someone lied somewhere.